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The Murder of April Marie Tinsley

Larry is a true crime fan and has several years of experience reporting on true crime cases and hosts a true-crime podcast.

April Marie Tinsley was abducted and killed in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

April Marie Tinsley was abducted and killed in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

April Tinsley Abduction

April Marie Tinsley was just your regular small-town eight-year-old girl living in Fort Wayne, Indiana when the unthinkable happened. On April 1st, 1988, a day which happened to be Good Friday and April Fool's Day, little April Tinsley was abducted by a stranger as she walked home.

The abduction shocked her family and the community when they realized someone evil was walking among them. This evil monster would end up taunting the police.

Right away hundreds of locals and law enforcement began searching for any sign of the little girl. Police did receive a serious lead—a witness came forward about witnessing a man pull the girl inside a light blue truck.

A Shocking Discovery

Sadly, everything came crashing down for the Tinsley family and the community of Fort Wayne. A jogger discovered the dead body of April Tinsley in a ditch nearly 20 miles from where she had been abducted.

Even though she was still clothed, it was later revealed that she had been raped and suffocated. Investigators found DNA that belonged to the murderer. However, even with the DNA and a witness statement, no arrests were made and the case grew cold.

Timeline of the Ashley Tinsley Murder


A Possible Suspect Emerges

Another witness came forward who reported seeing a man writing a message on a barn, not far from where April's body was discovered. The message written was ultimately both a confession and a threat to kill again.

The police noticed the writing was full of misspellings and appeared like a child wrote it. However, the witness could not identify the possible suspect. It would be a little over a decade before the writer would make contact.

In 2004, four handwritten notes were found all over Fort Wayne. These notes were found in mailboxes and some were found on bikes that belonged to young girls. These notes happened to be written on the exact same lined yellow paper, and similar to the barn message.

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The letters were left behind in plastic baggies. The baggies included used condoms and very explicit Polaroid photos, giving the police a few leads. DNA from the used condoms matched the DNA of April's murderer. This eventually led police to connect the new messages to April's murderer.

Letter From the Killer

Some of these letters were left to be found by young girls. One of the letters said that the killer was watching them and they would be his next victim. He admitted in the note that he was the man that kidnapped and raped April Tinsley. He also threatened to blow up their house if the note was not shared to the police and published in the paper.

Note left by the killer

Note left by the killer

The Hunt for the Killer Heats Up

The reality that the killer had returned sent Fort Wayne into a panic. The community was back to facing the reality that the killer could be walking among them. After these recent letters were received, the killer went into hiding and has not been heard from since.

Police received countless leads, and investigated multiple suspects, butno arrests were made. While the killer managed to remain hidden, he did leave some clues, that could eventually lead to his identity.

So far the police have writing samples, DNA samples, and witness statements when he was spotted abducting April and writing on the barn. These eyewitnesses allowed police to come up with a few rough sketches of the suspected killer. The Polaroids found with the messages could be a serious clue to the identity of the killer.

What's the Deal with the Polaroids?

In the early 2000s Polaroids were not widely used, so he either owned one or borrowed one. Police were able to see that the killer was circumcised and had hairy legs. In the photos, you can also see a blue-green bedspread.

Police believe the killer was driving a blue truck and later in 2004 a light blue truck. The key piece of evidence in this whole murder case is the DNA left behind by the killer. This sample creates a strong link between the murderer and young April.

DNA technology has improved since this case, leading to investigators to create a new composite sketch of what the killer may look like based on the DNA he left behind.

Final Thoughts

Murder is a tragedy that we face on an ongoing basis, but the murder of young April Tinsley is beyond tragic and unforgivable. This murder shows evil still exists in the world. This killer deserves to be caught, the killer clearly took pride in the murder and has shown a lack of remorse. For now, this killer is walking free somewhere and could possibly be in Fort Wayne. It's time the Tinsley family receives the closure and justice they deserve.

Update: Killer Finally Caught

John D. Miller was arrested by officers of the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Indiana State Police, according to court documents. He was caught thanks to the advancement in DNA technology. The technology that was used to catch the Golden State Killer, is the same technology that was used to catch John Miller.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Lawrence Lease

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